Tuesday, August 15, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Tech Companies Refusing DNS Service to Daily Stormer

Katie Mettler:

After months of criticism that GoDaddy was providing a platform for hate speech, the Web hosting company announced late Sunday that it will no longer house the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website that promotes white supremacist and white nationalist ideas.

[…]

“Given The Daily Stormer’s latest article comes on the immediate heels of a violent act, we believe this type of article could incite additional violence, which violates our terms of service,” Race wrote in the email.

[…]

GoDaddy has previously said that the content, however “tasteless” and “ignorant,” is protected by the First Amendment. The company told the Daily Beast in July that a Daily Stormer article threatening to “track down” the family members of CNN staffers did not violate Domains by Proxy’s terms of service.

Russell Brandom (Hacker News):

Just hours after being dropped by GoDaddy, prominent white nationalist publication The Daily Stormer attempted to find a home at Google. As of press time, the site’s registration info pointed to domains.google.com, indicating the web giant had taken over services as registrar.

Shortly after the switch was noticed, Google announced plans to drop the site. “We are cancelling Daily Stormer’s registration with Google Domains for violating our terms of service,” the company said in a statement. Later in the day, Google also banned The Daily Stormer from YouTube, according to Bloomberg.

Common carrier laws do not apply to DNS or Web hosting.

GoDaddy’s terms of service state in part:

You will not use this Site or the Services in a manner (as determined by GoDaddy in its sole and absolute discretion) that:

  • Is illegal, or promotes or encourages illegal activity;
  • Promotes, encourages or engages in child pornography or the exploitation of children;
  • Promotes, encourages or engages in terrorism, violence against people, animals, or property;

Google’s term of service don’t seem to have anything that specific, but they do include a sort of catch-all:

Google may accept or reject Registrant’s application for registration or renewal for any reason at its sole discretion[…].

In a way, this is disappointing because you can’t see where and how they would draw the line. On the other hand, this is the first I’ve heard of any companies refusing DNS service, and I don’t expect to see a slippery slope where lots of sites have to worry about this. I imagine that GoDaddy’s actual policy is that it’s all at their sole discretion, anyway. I seriously doubt they would reinstate service if the particular offending article were removed, nor do they want to have to continuously monitor the content of new articles.

Update (2017-08-15): Joseph Cox:

Early Tuesday morning, users on Twitter started sharing a link for a dark web version of the Daily Stormer. Searches for the URL of the site returned no results on Google, indicating that the site may be newly created. (Although the content of dark web sites themselves may not be cached by Google, many sites maintain collections of addresses for Tor hidden services, which are catalogued by the search engine.)

[…]

Running as a Tor hidden service means the site will be largely immune to some of the issues the Daily Stormer has faced over the past few days. It doesn’t rely on a domain registrar, such as GoDaddy or Google, so those companies can’t decide to stop providing services. And it is typically not possible to see what company is providing web servers to the site itself, making it unclear where to direct any complaints or takedown requests.

Keith Collins:

Other tech companies have also made moves against the far right: Airbnb banned users it suspected were traveling to attend the rally, while Discord, a chat service for online gamers, shut down a server and some accounts used for spreading extremist views.

[…]

Cloudflare acts as a shield between websites and the outside world, protecting them from hackers and preserving the anonymity of the sites’ owners. But Cloudflare is not a hosting service: It does not store website content on its servers. And that fact, as far as the company is concerned, exempts it from judgment over who its clients are—even if those clients are literally Nazis.

[…]

Cloudflare’s indiscriminate approach to its clients appeals not only to neo-Nazis, but also to another set of bad actors: websites that provide illegal hacking services.

Update (2017-08-16): See also: Hacker News.

Update (2017-08-17): Juli Clover:

Apple has disabled Apple Pay support on websites selling white nationalist and hate group apparel and accessories, reports BuzzFeed.

Matthew Prince (via Hacker News):

Earlier today, Cloudflare terminated the account of the Daily Stormer. We’ve stopped proxying their traffic and stopped answering DNS requests for their sites. We’ve taken measures to ensure that they cannot sign up for Cloudflare’s services ever again.

Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion. The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.

[…]

The size and scale of the attacks that can now easily be launched online make it such that if you don’t have a network like Cloudflare in front of your content, and you upset anyone, you will be knocked offline. In fact, in the case of the Daily Stormer, the initial requests we received to terminate their service came from hackers who literally said: “Get out of the way so we can DDoS this site off the Internet.”

[…]

In a not-so-distant future, if we’re not there already, it may be that if you’re going to put content on the Internet you’ll need to use a company with a giant network like Cloudflare, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, or Alibaba. […] Without a clear framework as a guide for content regulation, a small number of companies will largely determine what can and cannot be online.

Update (2017-08-18): John Gruber:

Prince’s thoughtful explanation makes clear that this was a last resort, and hopefully one-time exception, to their policy of not censoring sites over political content.

Nick Heer:

We have replaced many of the rights afforded to us in our own jurisdictions with the rights given to American companies.

EFF:

Even for free speech advocates, this situation is deeply fraught with emotional, logistical, and legal twists and turns. All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country. But we must also recognize that on the Internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with.

[…]

These are methods that protect us all against overbroad or arbitrary takedowns. It’s notable that in GoDaddy and Google’s eagerness to swiftly distance themselves from American neo-Nazis, no process was followed; CloudFlare’s Prince also admitted that the decision was “not CloudFlare’s policy.” Policies give guidance as to what we might expect, and an opportunity to see justice is done. We should think carefully before throwing them away.

Update (2017-08-21): Richard Kirkendall (via Hacker News):

At Namecheap, we see both sides of the free speech consideration. On the one hand, we cannot be the ones censoring content, unpopular though it may be. On the other hand, and without question, the content appearing on the DailyStormer.lol is highly offensive, even more so in light of the recent events in Charlottesville, VA.

[…]

So, the question, as I see it, is whether deletion of these domains contradicts our core principle of advocacy of free speech? In this particular case, I state that the answer is “No.”

[…]

But is this the right thing for freedom of speech and should a registrar be the one making this decision? I don’t think so. In a perfect world, a registrar should be able to remain neutral in these situations regardless of public opinion but the fact of the matter is that this cannot happen in reality. Any business cannot operate under these circumstances due to the mob mentality and the nature of our current politics.

Update (2017-08-22): Tor (tweet):

We are disgusted, angered, and appalled by everything these racists stand for and do. We feel this way any time the Tor network and software are used for vile purposes. But we can't build free and open source tools that protect journalists, human rights activists, and ordinary people around the world if we also control who uses those tools. Tor is designed to defend human rights and privacy by preventing anyone from censoring things, even us.

Update (2017-11-27): Ernesto Van der Sar (via Hacker News):

Adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan wants to depose Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince. The company is involved in a piracy liability battle with the CDN provider and brought up the recent decision to terminate the account of neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer as key evidence in the case.

4 Comments

I thought you could self-host DNS Service...

@Chucky That’s a good question. I think I read somewhere that you really do need a registrar for .com domains, but I don’t know the details of how this works.

Edward Marczak

There are two parts to this. Your registrar and DNS are separate, although your registrar needs to point to your domain's DNS. That said, you need to host DNS *somewhere*. Which means that it's a host on someone's network. And that provider is free to have terms of service, and can shut you down.

@Edward So only registrars can update the database that maps the domain to the DNS server, but then you can host your own DNS server that resolves services and subdomains within your domain? The DNS host is not really an additional requirement (aside from additional IP addresses) since you need a host for the actual content, anyway. I still thought there was an additional more stringent requirement for .com/.net, and a few other TLDs, but I can’t seem to find that right now.

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